Why BTS fans are braving heavy rain to protest at this iconic South Korea beach

Wearing purple raincoats, K-pop fans reached a popular beach in South Korea’s Maengbang that has became a K-pop symbol

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 03 August 2023 12:36 BST
Related video: Nasa climate scientist weeps at protest over climate crisis

K-pop fans in South Korea have braved recent heavy rains and stormy weather conditions to lead a protest against a gigantic coal-burning power plant that activists say poses a grave danger to the environment as well an iconic beach.

Wearing purple raincoats, K-pop fans reached the popular beach in Maengbang that has become a K-pop symbol after the sleeve photo shoot of BTS’s hit song “Butter” in 2021.

The beach, with a 1.2km-long shoreline that is covered with tree forest, clean white sand and shallow waters, has become a famous tourist spot for BTS fans with around 500,000 holidaymakers coming to the beach each year.

The fans raised the signs “No Coal” and “Goodbye Butter Beach?” to protest against the new coal-fired plant being built just 10km away from the beach in Samcheok, Gangwon province.

The demonstrations are part of the “Save the Butter Beach” campaign launched in 2021 by non-profit Korea Beyond Coal in collaboration with Kpop4planet, a group of global K-pop fans raising environmental issues.

The coal plant near Butter Beach is expected to release more than 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, according to climate activists.

While campaigners are trying to harness the massive fan following of K-pop to raise the issue of the environmental impact of coal-related projects and address concerns about the country’s approach to the climate crisis, the fans are especially concerned about the potential threat to the beach.

According to Bloomberg, climate activists predict that the coal plant – being built at the cost of 4.9tn won ($5bn) in close proximity to Butter Beach – will discharge over 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

The plant in Samcheok will become the country’s seventh-largest coal-fired plant with a total capacity of 2.2 gigawatts.

“K-pop fans are sincerely concerned, not only because our precious spot is getting destroyed,” Lee Da-yeon, a 20-year-old K-pop fan who was part of the protest, told Bloomberg.

“When we come together as a global legion of K-pop fans, we believe we have the power and influence to tackle the most devastating issue of our time – climate change.”

The campaigners have said they have no hope of the government halting the multi-billion project but say they want to highlight president Yoon Suk-yeol’s approach to the climate crisis.

Since coming to power last year, Mr Yoon has walked back on the previous government’s pledge to cut emissions below 40 per cent by 2030 from the 2018 level.

The policy was already criticised by activists for doing little to save the climate, but Mr Yoon scaled down the use of solar and wind energy deployments as well.

His administration has made changes to some key targets in climate goals, including providing major corporate polluters with more lenient emission reduction paths and revising the target for renewable energy to account for 22 per cent of power generation by 2030, down from the previous goal of 30 per cent.

Developer Samcheok Blue Power has not responded to requests for comments.

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